Trinity River in Hoopa, California. Photo by Allie Hostler
Published February 10, 2016
HOOPA, CALIFORNIA — A search party 60 people strong spent seven hours on the Trinity River today searching for Mark Nelson, 31, who fled police on foot and into the Trinity River on Friday night, February 5, around 11:30 p.m.
The search party, led by the Hoopa Valley Tribe’s Office of Emergency Services, Tribal Police, Volunteer Fire and Fire Departments, assisted by dozens of community member volunteers, divided sections of the Trinity River from Hostler Field to Norton Creek (near Weitchpec) and began searching the river banks on foot and by boat around 8:30 a.m. this morning.
According to Lieutenant Wayne Hanson, acting public information officer for the Sheriff’s Department, the foot pursuit began while deputies were searching for a suspect, Charles McCovey IV, who was allegedly involved with a stabbing incident.
“We thought it might have been a wanted subject — Charles McCovey,” Hansen said.
As it turned out, the subject who fled was not McCovey.
Although the Sheriff’s Office could not confirm that the subject was Nelson, the community and Nelson’s family said he has been missing since the incident. Nelson’s wife was with him at the time he fled on foot toward the Trinity River. His shoes were later found near the area where he was last seen in the river and his sweatshirt and backpack were also found.
According to Interim Hoopa Valley Tribal Police Chief Karl Norton, a nearby Hoopa Valley Tribal Police officer heard the scanner traffic and was in the area. The officer drove his patrol vehicle to the river bar below the legion hall in Hoopa where he heard someone yelling for help from the river. The officer shone a light on the river where he saw a subject in the river. Norton said the officer drove quickly toward the river but by the time he got to the water’s edge, had lost a visual.
The Coast Guard and Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office searched until about 2 a.m. and returned later Saturday morning to continue until all efforts were exhausted.
“We called off the search on Saturday afternoon,” Hanson said. “Normally, the Coast Guard only gets involved when searching for someone who could possibly be alive. We also ran boats up and down the river. We did the best we could.”
Community and family members, as well as Hoopa Valley Tribal Police continued searching on their own on Sunday and Monday.
The Trinity River in Hoopa is presently running more than 8,000 cubic feet per second, and is a 48 degrees. Visibility is less than one foot at this time.
A smaller search party will continue searching tomorrow in hopes of locating Nelson.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Lost Coast Outpost. Used with permission. All rights reserved.